5 Aug 2011

Britain needs to support Ecuador's amazing offer

A couple of weeks ago I read that Britain is boasting of redeveloping Shetland oil fields - see Monbiot here when he exposes the hypocrisy of our Government. In sharp contrast Ecuador have been trying to do a great thing - you can read about it in a Johann Hari article in The Independent here. He writes: "We have the choice of burning all the oil left and hacking down all the remaining rainforests - or saving humanity."

You see Ecuador, the most biodiverse place on Earth is trying to protect it's rainforest from the massive pressure to cut them down. You see underneath that rainforest there are almost a billion barrels of untapped oil, containing 400 million tones of greenhouse gases. Ecuador's democratic government says that, if the rest of the world offers just half of what the oil is worth – $3.5bn – they will keep the rainforest standing and alive and working for us all. In a country where 38 per cent live in poverty and 13 per cent are on the brink of starvation, it's an incredibly generous offer.

As Hari writes: "No country with oil has ever considered leaving it in the ground because the consequences of digging it up are too disastrous. This is a startling attempt to reverse one of the greatest dysfunctions in the global economic system."

Ecuador first made this offer in 2006. So how has the world responded? Chile has offered $100,000. Spain has offered $1.4m. Germany initially offered $50m, then pulled out.

And Britain? Well I wrote to Neil Carmichael asking his views and got a letter with a letter from Charles Hendry, saying: "I enclose a copy of his letter which I know you will find disappointing but explains the Government position." Indeed I did. They say giving "financial compensation for keeping oil in the ground would set a dangerous precedent".

Dangerous precedent? How dangerous does the threat of climate change need to be? Keeping oil in the ground is one way we can actually save this planet and the people that live on it. Yet now the British government is actively championing the redevelopment in the Shetlands. So much for the greenest ever government....

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